I first came upon this story while traveling around blog-world and stopping in at The Dog's Mother. I opted to wait to write about it, and let the story sink in first. Now, however, I'm ready.
Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, live in Washington. Obviously, since their names are Robert and Curt, they're a gay couple. And, since they are a gay couple and live in Washington state and last November the good people of that state decided to make everyone equal and passed a marriage equality bill out there, Robert and Curt decided they wanted to get married. They planned a small wedding for this next September.
And, since during their nearly decade-long relationship they always ordered special occasion flowers--birthdays, anniversaries, condolences and such--from Arlene's Flowers in Richland, they decided to use the same florist for their wedding flowers.
The owner of Arlene's Flowers, Barronelle Stutzman, however, had a different idea and turned down the contract because of, ahem, religious beliefs, saying, "Rob came into the store and was talking about getting married. I told him because of my relationship with Jesus Christ that I couldn't do his wedding."
The Baby Jeebus, apparently, in Barronelle Stutzman's mind, doesn't like The Gays and weddings and flowers.
Robert Ingersoll said he and Stutzman talked a bit, and parted respectfully, but he felt hurt by the rejection: "It really hurt because it was somebody I knew. We laid awake all night Saturday. It was eating at our souls. There was never a question she'd be the one to do our flowers. She does amazing work."
Ingersoll and Freed each wrote a Facebook post about their disappointment in Barronelle Stutzman and Arlene's Flowers, and suddenly the story was everywhere, with people leaving comments, both positive and critical of the florist who won't do same-sex weddings.
Many pointed out that Barronelle Stutzman's refusal to provide flowers for the Ingersoll-Freed wedding just might be against Washington law. While same-sex marriage is legal, legal, in the state, the law exempts religious organizations from having to perform same-sex weddings, but doesn't allow the same exemptions for businesses.
Which for me is neither here nor there.
The problem I have is that Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers had no problems taking money for Ingersoll and Freed for over nine years when they used her florist shop. She gladly took their checks for flowers as gifts, for flowers as birthday wishes, Valentine's Day, anniversaries. In fact, I imagine she often saw the cards that maybe Robert Ingersoll or Curt Freed wrote to each other; she knew they were a gay couple and took their money willingly until they asked for wedding flowers and then suddenly the Baby Jeebus said No.
Stutzman said her personal belief is that a marriage is between a man and a woman, and she believes she should be able to choose whether she wants to participate in a wedding between two men: "It's not my intent to enforce (my belief) on anyone else. I 'm not against gays. If they want to believe they should be married, that's certainly their conviction and belief. I'm not to judge them on that, and they shouldn't judge me."
Let's dissect: Stutzman believes marriage is a man-woman thing; it's not, dear. In Washington state, it's not just a man-woman thing. Now, you can believe otherwise, but you're wrong. And that whole 'I'm not against the gays' line of illogic really burns me.
I’m not against you but you are less than I am and therefore I can take your money until I suddenly decide you are offensive to me because you’re gay.
Listen, honey, put a sign in the window saying that you are a co-owner of Arlene’s Flowers with one Jesus H. Christ and that the two of you don't do same-sex wedding; put in the Straights Only sign. Seriously; you don’t want the gay couples and their business, don't take our money. And don’t ever pick and choose when you take it. Don’t take money from us for years, becoming a friend to us during that time, and then suddenly turn all Holy Roller on us and tell us you can’t help us because you don't believe we have the right, the right, to get married.
I sincerely hope that Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed have a beautiful wedding, with beautiful flowers, as much as I sincerely hope that people who believe that any kind of discrimination is wrong will simply walk past your shop and head to one that supports all people.
Seriously, Barronelle Stutzman, get that sign for the window so the world knows you don’t like all people and don’t think all people are equal.